KATIE Arnstein’s Sexy Lamp is a remarkable piece of theatre. Bold, brash and very much of the moment. It packs an almighty punch, one that boxer Nicola Adams would be proud of.
Although only an hour long, Arnstein crams more into this enjoyable show than some twice its length. There are big dollops of humour, some pretty good singing, a little bit of audience participation, the kindly handing out of yummy rhubarb custards – and a serious theme underpinning it all. Namely, the rampant sexism that still plagues the acting profession – and the wider world at large. Oh, and Arnstein starts it all wearing a lampshade on her head – not particularly sexy.
Arnstein gets her message across by framing the show very much around her world. It begins with her desire to become an actor at age seven, takes us through school plays (lead role in Santa’s Snow Mobile), drama school and then her increasingly desperate attempts to get acting parts. There is sexism at every twist and turn, experienced not only by herself but those around her.
She starts with the Wizard of Oz, a film she loved as a child. But now she bemoans the fact that Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion, earned five times more than Judy Garland. She then goes on to describe the sexism she endured at drama school – and then an awful audition in London where without pre-warning she is asked to take off her bra (she only does so because she has been taught to say ‘yes’).
Then there is her part-time job promoting perfumes in a department store where many of the women are asked to be escorts for rich gentlemen visiting the shop. And there is the moment when she comes to the rescue of a fellow passenger on a crammed tube train who is being leant into by a man with an overactive groin (Arnstein’s spontaneous response to this situation is quite brilliant).
It is all serious stuff, but Arnstein delivers it with great humour and panache. A high octane approach that gets her messages across in an engaging way.
Sexy Lamp was (understandably) winner of ‘show of the week’ at the recent Vault Festival in South London. Her previous play, Bicycles and Fish, won the same award last year.
Arnstein is taking her show, directed by Ellen Havard, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the summer – where it is bound to be a success.
Arnstein has a sprinkling of Victoria Woods about her (someone she name checks in the play). Through wit and humour, she is able to get across some big messages.
On this evidence, she could in the future be Lichfield’s answer to the much missed doyenne of comedy.